Some of the Facebook ads purchased by Russians in the run-up to last year’s presidential election included posts that made Black Lives Matter seem threatening and were anti-immigrant with a pro-Trump slant.
CNN reported Wednesday on the Black Lives Matter ads, saying they appeared on Facebook in late 2015 or early 2016 and were geographically targeted to hit audiences in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland, where they might resonate the most.
ABC News then reported on an anti-immigrant Facebook group called Secured Borders, which looked like the product of a grassroots American movement, but was actually manned by Russians trying to influence the US election.
ABC News revealed that the group Secured Borders, which looked like an American grassroots organization, was really a page operated by the Russians
Secured Borders created shareable content with a strong anti-immigrant message, which also encouraged voters to support President Trump
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company would turn over the 3,000 Russian-purchased ads to Congressional investigators
The aim of these ads and groups was to sow discontent among voters and add more fuel to an already toxic and polarized political climate.
Earlier this month, Facebook announced that the company had found that it had sold around 3,000 ads to accounts based out of Russia.
This week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said he is handing those ads over to Congressional investigators who are probing Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
The tech company has stayed mum on much of the content of the ads, simply saying they didn’t all specifically reference the presidential candidates – Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton – but instead ‘appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights.’
Politico previously reported that some ads did encourage voters to support Trump, and also Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s primary rival, and Green Party hopeful Jill Stein, who likely siphoned off some of Clinton’s support during the general election.
CNN’s discovery of Black Lives Matter being used and being used in certain geographic areas shows, for the first time, some of the sophisticated tactics Russian troll farms used, in an effort to direct messaging to those who might be riled up the most.
ABC’s reporting showed how some of the Russian-created content was worded and how it was meant to be shared.
‘If wanting thieves, gang thugs, drug dealers, rapists, child molesters, murderers off the streets is racist, then I’m a racist,’ read one post, compliments of Secured Borders.
The Black Lives Matter ads, CNN found, were purchased by an organization called the Internet Research Agency, described as a ‘state-funded organization that blogs and tweets on behalf of the Kremlin’ by US intelligence.
Because of the sophistication of the targeting, Congressional investigators are wondering if the Russians had American help.
Both Congress and Special Counsel Robert Mueller are looking for evidence of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.
‘Did they know this just by following political news in America? Did they geo-target both geographically and by demographics in ways that at least at first blush appear pretty sophisticated?’ mused Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., on Tuesday.
Warner is the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, one of the Congressional bodies looking into Russian influence on the campaign.
‘These are the kind of questions that we need to get answered and that’s why we need them in a public hearing,’ Warner also said.